Ask Avigail: Please Bring Exact Change

Dear Avigail,

I am a bit confused as to whether our ancient Hebrew sisters contributed golden valuables in the making of the Golden Calf; and, also contributed a half shekel to the building of the first Beit Ha Mishkan?* And, can you please clarify why the amount of half a shekel?


Simcha bat Sarah

Dear Simcha bat Sarah,

Rabbinical sages have argued for centuries, as to why the price of one half shekel was to be donated by Hebrew men and women, over the age of twenty. Great Rabbinical minds converged and found, much to their surprise, that a. the Rabbis all seemed to prefer poppy over the prune danish; and, b. the prune danish gave all such a case of gastritis, no one had experienced since the days of the plagues.

The first clue pertaining to the half shekel was not at all hidden in an obscure treatise. In fact, Hashem started off with the answer to his own commandment. “And thou shalt each contribute no more, no less than a half shekel* toward the building of the Mishkan, and I will dwell with thee. Everyone will bring EXACT CHANGE because I am not about to break anything; I don’t carry cash, I don’t accept plastic and I am nobody’s personal ATM machine. Cashing bad checks, from the Bank of Eucalyptus, are grounds for standing room only, during High Holidays, which is as good as having a scarlet A branded on your forehead.” The Rabbis shook their head in agreement; there was no room for debate or interpretation on that point. They moved on.

First, let’s start with the age, over the age of 20. The Great Rabbi Yehuda Ben Shula Shmerler of twice-conquered Judea (the third time was just a domestic tiff, false alarm) stated that, “any youth under the age of twenty, had never even seen a half a shekel to make a cameo appearance in his toga pocket. He relied totally on his parents to give him a lift to town, on the family donkey. If he ever had a half shekel, it was because his mother had put the coin in the pushke,* right before Shabbat, to protect her only son from the evil eye, or army conscription, which sometimes came at the same time.

The Great Rabbis took a break. Some grabbed for a glass tea; others tried to find the men’s’ room. And others went to a quiet space and pondered more on what was said. When the Rabbis re-convened, they were refreshed and ready to have another go at it.

OK, why a half shekel??? Rabbi Yonatan Gamiel Raphael Ariel Uriel Gabriel Zeitzman, OBM, says: “Hashem never quite got over the Golden Calf incident…yes, yes, he forgave his children; he restrained himself from going ballistic; but, he felt like giving them a tiny, little zetz.* Pertaining to the building of the golden calf, when asked to contribute their gold and valuables for a new idol, a new deity, the wonton Hebrews went crazy. They turned around and violently yanked out their mother in law’s gold fillings; those that were rich, threw in their baby’s gold overlaid bronze baby shoes, not bothering to first take the child out of them. They were crazed with giving, but to the wrong God. The only ones who refused to give as much as half a shekel-were the women. They would not be a part of this Tom Foolery; they knew the men folk were gonna be grounded into Gehenna.*

So, because the women wouldn’t give the symbolic “half a shekel,” for the gold (plated) calf, this was Hashem’s way of sharing a hearty laugh and wink. “This half a shekel you CAN donate, to decorate my home. And, any fashion tips will be taken with serious regard. After all, I want you to visit and consider it your home, too.”

I hope this has settled your confusion, and thank you for relying on my humble wisdom to help you.


*Beit ha Mishkan House of Prayer Synagogue

*Pushke Vessel to put coins destined for charity.

*Gehenna Hell or the LA Expressway during rush hour4.

About the Author
Shashi Ishai is a former stand-up/cartoonist from Teaneck, N.J. She resides in Netanya with her husband, Yacov; daughter, Zehava; son Zaki and dog, Stanley .Shashi is the author of ASK AVIGAIL: Advice from a Biblical Era Sagette, available on Amazon.